This startup is building an online shop around unboxing videos

A YouTuber unboxes a "loot crate."
Image: youtube

Eric Feng thinks he’s found the perfect intersection of media and online retail, and it’s, well, a little outside the box.

The former Hulu executive and Kleiner Perkins partner is launching a new shopping platform built entirely around an obsession among certain parts of the internet with so-called “unboxing” videos.

The company is called Packagd, and Feng wants it to serve as an umbrella for a stable of apps centered on specific product categories. So far, there’s only one: a tech-focused property called Unboxed. A beauty-centric addition is also in the works.

Each app will consist of a constant video stream of people unwrapping, talking through, and sometimes reviewing various products, most of which will be pulled from existing content on platforms like YouTube (with each creator’s permission, of course).

Feng bills it as a sort of QVC shopping network for the mobile-first world.

“QVC has built an enormously successful brand,” Feng said.

Packagd plans to supplement its secondhand videos by tapping unboxers with established online brands to host live sessions, where they answer questions, chat, and sell products.

Below each video is a buy button for every product featured in a given segment, usually via Amazon or another big retailer. Creators collect all of the affiliate revenuea commission of sortsthat retailers pay for those items as compensation for their time.

Packagd doesn’t see a dime from those deals. Instead, the company plans to make its money through original video content sponsored by a brand. For instance, Best Buy, one of the app’s initial sponsors, might host a showcase with one of its floor managers.

Packagd will also sometimes sell its own strategically selected products if its data shows there’s an opportunity in a space.

Kleiner Perkins put up $1.5 million to get the company off the ground, and it’s also raised a funding round of $6 million from other high-profile investors.

Feng thinks this model will work because unboxing videos sit at a unique crossroads between marketing content and entertainment. As long as experts are vetted and objective, there’s not much conflict between the goals of a quality seller and those of an enthusiast with an audience.

“It’s really the sweet spot,” Feng said. “The lines are starting to blur.”

That’s not to say there will be any fuzziness around what’s paid for by a sponsor and what’s editorial content. Feng says the distinction will be clearly labelled.

That’s because, like a media outlet, Packagd relies on the trust of its users above all else. People will only visit if they feel like its a fair-minded place to learn about products about which they’re enthusiastic.

Feng doesn’t want it to be a one-and-done shop; the goal is to get people to hang around on the app whether they plan to buy something or not. The company cedes customers who know exactly what they want to Amazon.

“If people hang around for long enough, maybe at some point they’ll decide to buy some headphones or something,” Feng said.

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